The politics of social intimacy: regulating gendered and racial violence

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University of Alabama Libraries

This project explores the constructions of gender, intimacy, and race and the ways these issues are informed by history and the law. The idea of consent, while originally described in texts as a legal concept between citizens, transformed into a way to navigate intimate relationships in the private sphere. This muddied the ways women and men were understood to form relationships and the limits of those relationships. In the same ways that gender was arbitrated through legal language, race is often ensnared in the same processes and institutions. Tolerance has been offered as one approach, but instead of mitigating this violence, it has more firmly entrenched it into the democratic process. Hannah Arendt’s description of the social frames an understanding of intimacy and narratives. Arendt’s work critically creates a space for the category of the social, something found around but outside of the public and private. Instead of working to make the private seen as a sphere for political action, I will focus on the potential of the social as a method of political action. While Arendt has obvious racial bias, I will use her own response to anti-semitism to develop a different approach to Black politics that allow for identity-based responses. Lauren Berlant’s Intimate Publics addresses the potential for coalition building in the social. Using the sorority system as a way of teasing out notions of femininity, discipline, sexual violence, and intimacy, I will describe the ways that a woman subject is produced and how this then works to shape our notions of race. Women’s identities, particularly white women, are constructed through an association with race and sexuality, by unpacking this development, its possible to see how this is socially and institutionally enforced. Part of this enforcement will focus on the narratives of sexual violence. Rape is an issue that not only confronts legal questions, but also the nature of a woman’s ability to participate in democracy. Tying this together will be the importance of political theory. This serves to define the contemporary issues, solutions that have been offered and new potential approaches to intimate violence.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Political science, Gender studies, African American studies